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Boston Society of Architects Headquarters by Höweler + Yoon Architecture

The following text and images are courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture for their competition-winning design — Splipstream Public Exchange — of the Boston Society of Architects Headquarters. The 154-year-old organization will move from 52 Broad Street to Atlantic Wharf.

SLIPSTREAM maximizes the BSA’s engagement with a larger public by creating a series of interfaces, both physical and informational. The physical design of the new headquarters introduces a “cloud” ceiling that capitalizes on the viewing angles between the sidewalk and the second floor, to create a highly visible signature feature that doubles as gallery ceiling and supergraphic signage. The information interface utilizes wireless technologies to deliver site specific content to visitors, while also creating a BSA application for smart phones and location-aware hand held devices.

Drawing the public up to the second floor, a grand stair drops down from the ceiling above, and provides a fluid transition between floors with a single gesture. The stair and ceiling form the primary figure of the physical interface. Information technologies are also embedded in the “cloud” ceiling, allowing its edge to broadcast messages through an LED sign band, while projectors display a digital wayfinding entrance mat, and wireless transmitters stream video feeds. “Public Exchange” consoles are located throughout the space, allowing the public to access curated information about the built environment, construction billings index figures, and databases of designers, products, and services.

The contoured media surface wraps around the perimeter of the space, creating a continuous gallery and event circuit. Program areas are held back from the edge, allowing the public circulation to flow along the perimeter. The gallery program is conceived as a series of fluid paths and not as a discrete room. The content of the exhibitions produce the programmatic “current” to the flow of the gallery. Placing the gallery along the edge reinforces the cognitive parallax between the contents of the exhibitions in the foreground and the city in the background. This is consistent with the BSA’s core mission to support the active engagement between the process of design and the resulting product of the built environment.

Conference rooms are distributed within the free-flowing gallery zone. The conference rooms form an archipelago of program distributed within the flows of public gallery, maximizing the contact between the BSA members, visitors, stakeholders, and members of the general public.

The new BSA produces “Public Exchange” through its organizational and material logics, as well as through its network and media strategies. The fluid spaces of the linear gallery parallel the constant streams of broadcast information. The archipelago of programs and exhibitions will create a smooth mixture of audiences and content within the flows and eddies of the BSA’s slipstream configuration, resulting in the productive discourse that is BSA’s mission.

Design Team:
Höweler + Yoon Architecture: J. Meejin Yoon, Eric Höweler (Principals in Charge), Ryan Murphy, Parker Lee, Liu Xi, Thena Tak, Cyrus Dochow.
Structural Engineer: ARUP
MEP Engineer: AHA Consultants

Hat tip to A Daily Dose of Architecture

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AIA NY Panel Discussion: NBAU Employment Outlook for Architects

When: 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 26

Where: At The Center
AIA New York Chapter
536 LaGuardia Place
NY, NY 10012
(212) 683-0023

This panel discussion will take a look at what architects might expect in terms of employment and workforce trends this year.

Speakers: David C. McFadden, Founder/CEO of Consulting for Architects, Inc. and Daniel A. Cloke, President, Parade A|E|C Staffing

The economy has changed radically throughout the world and the impact has been strongly felt in the design community in New York City. The NBAU program focuses on what design professionals need to do now for themselves and their firms.

Please RSVP as a light lunch will be served.  Check local weather report for snow forecast.

Events in this series are provided at no cost thanks to our sponsors: Chief Manufacturing, Lutron Electronics and Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, LLP


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Architecture Billings Index Dips Back into Negative Territory in October

The American Institute of Architects (AIA) reported today that following on the heels of the first positive reading since January 2008, the Architecture Billings Index (ABI) dropped nearly two points in October.

As a leading economic indicator of construction activity, the ABI reflects the approximate nine to twelve month lag time between architecture billings and construction spending.

The October ABI score was 48.7, down from a reading of 50.4 the previous month. This score reflects a decrease in demand for design services (any score above 50 indicates an increase in billings). The new projects inquiry index was 61.7, down slightly from a nearly three-year high mark of 62.3 in September.

“This is disappointing news, but not altogether that surprising,” said AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker, PhD, Hon. AIA. “We were anticipating a slow recovery period and it is likely that there will be some fits and starts before conditions show consistent improvement. Right now, reluctance from lending institutions to provide credit for construction projects and a sluggish economy are the main impediments to a revival of the design and construction industry.”

Key October ABI highlights:

  • Regional averages: Northeast (54.5), Midwest (51.8), South (48.6), West (44.3)
  • Sector index breakdown: commercial / industrial (54.5), institutional (50.8), multi-family residential (49.1), mixed practice (43.2)
  • Project inquiries index: 61.7

Via Real Estate Channel

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Is New York Architecture Past Its Prime?

The Center for Architecture currently has, on exhibition, a piece called the “liquid wall,” the winner of a competition for “innovative” material for building exteriors, as part of a show called Innovate/Integrate, which will be on display until Jan. 15.

Displayed in the back of the soaring concrete-floored gallery two floors below street level, the liquid wall has the clean, white, sculptural appeal of something from a movie that takes place in the future; it’s made of an elegant poured-concrete grid and glass panels, each of which frames what looks like a semi-transparent garden hose that snakes up and down several times as you watch the display. This cladding has never actually been used on a building, but according to the curator, everything chosen for the contest could feasibly be used as one.

The liquid wall is made possible by Ductal, a fortified concrete strong enough to bear weight in thin, sculptural forms.

In the prototype, water runs through the hoses, making a passive solar collector that can heat the building. The winning design is the central attraction of the “innovate” part of the exhibit. The “integrate” part of the show is meant, according to A.I.A. New York’s president, Anthony P. Schirripa, to teach the public about modern construction, which requires much more collaboration between architects, engineers and builders, and more technologically advanced modeling than it once did.

A few New York City projects qualified: Yankee Stadium for its Building Information Modeling, the Barclay Center for using 4-D Visualization, Beekman Tower for its B.I.M. Consulting, HOK’s New York office for Integrated Project Delivery, the World Trade Center for 4-D Scheduling. (The fourth “D” being time). All were honored for one of three things: construction management, construction logistics, or construction technology.

In other words, not the actual building, so much as the way of visualizing it, and not the architecture, so much as the construction method.

“There are a lot of projects in here that are New York based,” said Sara Hart, the curator of Innovate/Integrate. “But that—the liquid wall—is a use of Ductal that you see almost exclusively in Europe; same thing with the Corian-clad building upstairs.” (Corian is a non-porous surface material that can be heated and molded; it’s popular for kitchen and bathroom countertops.)

“Corian’s been trying to get people to use it as an exterior,” Hart said. “It’s a beautiful material and I think eventually … but you need a client.” She paused. “I think it will happen. I don’t know if it will happen in New York first.”

THIS KIND OF DOUBT ABOUT NEW YORK’S willingness to create space for really new ideas in architecture and building design and construction is not a new thing. Among architects it’s axiomatic. Despite a long history of innovative building, New York, for a number of reasons, hasn’t produced much in the way of interesting architecture in the last 50 years. And in the course of a conversation, Hart became more explicit.

“We just don’t like to try new things,” Hart said. “And so the construction industry is very conservative, and so are clients.”

She blames the city’s “opposition to everything” for some of this, but especially that of unions operating in the engineering and construction sectors. If a project demands a complex facade, it will likely be built overseas, as it was the case of the 2002 facade of the Burberry building. The components were completed in Germany, by Germans, shipped here, and assembled on-site.

And when the company tried to bring German craftsmen to do the installation, the unions wouldn’t allow it. “So to get the quality they wanted, they had to handpick some New York construction people and train them, the German way,” Hart said. “There are some non-union jobs that happen in New York, but it’s—clients don’t want the hassle; they don’t want the bad publicity. In other states it’s different. New York is different than the rest of the country.”

New York’s last great period of architectural achievement, during the 1950s and ’60s, was bolstered by a massive postwar public works and jobs drive fueled with money from the federal government, which made possible public-facing projects like the United Nations complex and Lincoln Center. It was also a period in which architects like Frank Gehry, Mies van der Rohe, and Walter Gropius were designing buildings with distinct and memorable profiles, like the Guggenheim Museum, the Seagrams Building, and the Pan Am Building for corporate clients, in those days when expressions of corporate power on such a scale were applauded by the public with an almost jingoistic fervor.

It didn’t last. Possibly the last and greatest moment in this period was the construction of the World Trade Center, the world’s tallest buildings, and in many ways as the culmination of that postwar corporate aesthetic.

To say that architecture gave up on New York would gloss over several projects that garnered significant attention. Philip Johnson did the AT&T Building (now Sony) in 1984 and the Lipstick Building in 1986, and Trump Tower went up in 1983—but when these buildings were not hated by the public and derided by critics as kitsch, they also didn’t add up to anything in the development of a new idea of a New York style; they were more like hodgepodge of eccentricities.

“We went into the, sort of, post modernist phase,” said Vishaan Chakrabarti, director of the Department of Real Estate Development at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation, “but in some ways it was the same building, just dressed up differently.”

BEGINNING IN THE 19TH CENTURY, FEATS OF ARCHITECTURE and engineering were possibly the central element in the identity of New York City around the world. The Brooklyn Bridge, of course, is not strictly architecture but once it was built, in “a literal and genuinely religious leap of faith in 19th-century American engineering,” as John Perry Barlow wrote, it helped to establish the city as a center for what Edwin Burroughs and Mike Wallace defined in Gotham as “skilled intellectual labor.”

The Beaux-Arts style in architecture was not originally New York’s, but students who went to study at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris around the turn of the century brought back ideas of the kind of architecture they believed was needed, not to establish New York as an innovator, but to make a statement about the kind of city New York intended to be.

“In the establishment of the modern state during the nineteenth century the role of the Beaux-Arts must be viewed not so much as a cultural phenomenon but as a political operation,” wrote Leon Kirier in Architectural Design, responding to a 1975-76 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art called “The Architecture of the Ecole of Beaux-Arts.” The New York Public Library (1911), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1902), the original Penn Station (1912), Grand Central Station (1913), and other buildings in the style were a “an instrument of domination in the hands of the bourgeoisie.” The elaborate monumental, white neo-classical buildings were the sort of landmarks that defined the city as an international intellectual capital, and not just a commercial backwater of Western Europe. It’s what made us not Australia or Canada, and made New York a city that could compete on its own terms with London, Paris, Rome, Moscow, Berlin.

New York was the center of international fascination, if not approval, once its skyscrapers started going up, and the collection of early tall buildings began to form the dizzying skyline that became the signature of the city. The most famous buildings—the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building—were for the most part not received as art, but as a bold statement, “a celebration of self-advancement within the American economic system,” writes William Curtis in Modern Architecture Since 1900. “Here was a ‘Cathedral of Capitalism.’” According to Curtis, Le Corbusier was repelled by the buildings, but drawn to the romantic skyline, and either way impressed feat of finance, technology and management; he described Manhattan as “the workhorse of the new era.”

The reaction of European architects to the developing idiom of New York continued along those same lines in the following decades: they saw a certain artistic emptiness, but found in the audacity of what the city could accomplish something quite amazing, and in the use of technology, awesome.

In a 1946 essay, “Returning from America,” Marcel Lods wrote, “Encounters are violent, rapid, sometimes brutal…but what power, what plenitude!”

“The French now feel themselves a little ‘flat,'” Lods went on, in an eerie echo of what is often heard, in certain circles, in New York these days. “They now feel exhausted by eternal negotiations, perpetual saying of ‘it’s impossible,’ or ‘that’s not done,’ finishing with the inevitable ‘that’s not done in France.'”

“It is necessary to conduct the evolutions, not submit to them,” Lods wrote, “Whereopon we can draw a solid lesson from our American friends.”

“They have pushed mechanization and the equipment of the building site as far as possible.”

Similarly, in a 1957 issue of Architectural Review dubbed “Machine Made America,” the editors called America “a success story—the story of how America is adding sheer quantity to the preexisting qualities of modern architecture. In terms of quantity, the U.S. is now the homeland of the modern movement, and quantity, backed by wealth, industry and technical skill, is the prerequisite of architectural quality today.”

Anthony Vidler, writing about the same 1975 Beaux-Arts exhibit, wrote, “In Europe modern architecture forged itself not only as an aesthetic but a social movement; it was the expression (however misplaced in retrospect) of social democracy, sometimes even socialism in action—it was avant-garde, and progressive, when the idea of progression was not a cheap dream of cars and suburbs.”

“But in America, this was never the case,” he wrote. “When finally the Modern Movement was imported to the U.S. (by the mechanism, it is interesting to note, of an exhibition [in 1932] at the museum of modern art [sic]), it was as International Style, not movement….Americans, always uncomfortable with the brief, and temporary, identification of modern style with the social premises of the new deal [sic], were now relieved to see the divorce between art and society ratified by the art exhibition.”


THE DIVORCE DID NOT ENDURE. The postwar “urban renewal” money dried up, and sites once lauded as expressions of the city’s postwar ambition decayed, like much of the city, strapped with debt. Great architecture is the expression of a city’s self-assurance, and by the late 1960’s that self-assurance was in short supply. There were economic factors: by the 1970’s New York was widely regarded as a sort of hellhole by the rest of America. And of course, everything about the commercial ambition and values of the generation that returned from World War II was under interrogation.

“By the 1960s, we knew that urban renewal was a failure, we knew it had taken the heart and the gut out of cities,” Ada Louise Huxtable said in an undated interview with WNET.

What could seem more demonic to the mind of the mid-to-late 1960’s than these giant, disruptive and sometimes rather brutal buildings? The cold International Style, and the top-down planning that had defined development in the city for decades, had been by that time, to put it mildly, rejected.

Jane Jacobs published her magnum opus, The Death and Life of American Cities, in 1961 and subsequently formed a coalition that before long had some influence over what was built in New York.

“I would say that people my age, and perhaps, I think, everybody here who was born after the Second World War, has grown up and come of age in the intellectual shadow of Jane Jacobs,” architectural historian Jennifer Hock said at a recent forum at CUNY’s Graduate Center. “I think that when we think about the city we are almost instinctively wary of the excesses of the post-war redevelopment program.”

Where the city’s architectural elite had not taken this point of view it became even more defensive, its processes even more secretive, conducted with the minimum of press. Buildings were designed in boardrooms and made possible in backroom political deals. The buildings that resulted looked like what they were: a rebuke to the counterculture, to the street level, and to the public sphere.

“With the decline of the city in the ’70s you saw a decline in architecture,” said Chakrabarti. “If you look at the great buildings from the ’50s and ’60s in New York—you look at the Seagram’s building or Lever House,” he said. “They were buildings that were opening up out to the city in a certain way. There was a big plaza; there was a sense that the city flowed into the building.”

“New York in the ’70s then—because of crime and physical decline and all that—went into a defensive crouch,” he said. “If you look at the Ford Foundation or—Skidmore did the Bank of New York building downtown—[there’s] an inward defensive focus.”

The post-’60s buildings displayed a “fairly repellent facade on the street,” Chakrabarti said. “And so I think—then Modernism started really getting questioned, as a consequence.”

Meanwhile, architects looking to build something bold, or experimental, or sweeping, learned to look elsewhere for locations. Reflecting, in 2009, on the death of Charles Gwathmey, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff wrote of the 1970s, “The country’s creative energy shifted westward, to Los Angeles, whose vibrant mix of urban grit and nature, abundance of relatively cheap land and lack of confining historical traditions allowed architects to experiment with a freedom that had become virtually impossible in New York.”

For a number of years, no one in New York seemed particularly concerned about the architectural profession. In the 1970s New York wasn’t growing much of anything. The city of the 1970s and 1980s established a different kind of international position, rooted in neighborhoods like Soho and the Village. Out of Jane Jacobs’ New York we had given the world Bob Dylan, and much of what continued to make New York special in the minds of its citizens and the world drew from that template. It was drawn against, and not from, the built environment of the city.

As Alex Garvin, urban planner and professor at Yale, articulated it, “The attitude that existed around the turn of the century in New York, when we were building skyscrapers and everybody was trying to go higher and higher; that world—’we can do everything in New York’—has evaporated.”

In the popular imagination, the removal of power to the private sphere, to a sort of secret society that ran the town, was reflected in the popular culture in the seriously conflicting points of view of the power elite in movies like Wall Street and Working Girl, one a parable of outrageous and self-destructive greed, the other an epic journey, undertaken on the Staten Island Ferry with the World Trade Center looming in the foreground. What’s secret becomes an object of fascination. The New York Observer began publishing in 1987 as a rather earnest community newspaper, distributed in the lobbies of doorman buildings on the corridors of Fifth and Park Avenues and Central Park West, and quickly became the newspaper of record for a certain set, fascinating because it told the stories that weren’t supposed to be told about ambition and power in New York.

THAT THE CITY ULTIMATELY TOOK THIS version of the story of New York to heart was probably never more evident than when the last Great Urban Renewal Monument, the World Trade Center, came crashing down on the financial district.

Both Garvin and Chakrabarti attribute the sudden communal sensitivity to architecture in the city to Sept. 11, when, for the first time in a long time, in considering what to build on the site of the World Trade Center, New Yorkers wanted something to make a statement about the city after the attack.

“I think that the process really began in an odd way,” said Garvin, who at the time held the position of Vice President and was in charge of planning for the city-state agency created to manage the redevelopment of Ground Zero. “We held a public hearing at Pace [University]. Pace had a huge auditorium. And the first time the public ever had a chance to express themselves about 9/11—to the great astonishment of the press I might add—were all these people who said there are other considerations and we want something great.”

The change at the time was actually palpable. At another public hearing, held at the Javits Center, booing erupted when proposals for the site were presented. “The audience of 5,000 New Yorkers from every walk of life were not just being contrarians; they were expressing a collective demand for urban and architectural greatness, scaled to the magnitude of 9/11,” wrote Joseph Gioviannini in New York magazine.

It was as if, for the first time in decades, New Yorkers needed their city’s architecture to say something about the city; to illustrate how it would see life after 9/11.

“Making the city whole again is a way of making ourselves whole,” Gioviannini wrote in the same article. “The Parthenon, the Pantheon, and any number of Gothic cathedrals all provoke a sense of wonder, and even if the belief systems that created them have collapsed or changed, the stones still speak to our eyes, body, and spirit.”

But the groundwork had already been laid by the boom in the real estate market that was suddenly making it feasible again for developers to find anchor tenants for large, impressive buildings. Once again, corporations wanted their logos down on the street level, and had the cash to make it happen.

At the same time, on a smaller scale, a crisis in luxury residential property inventory was looming. Prices on a Classic Six on those corridors where the Observer began its distribution were going through the roof. It became important to create something elsewhere that still had cachet. Bringing an architect to Soho or Tribeca to build a condominium building that would sell units for well upward of a million dollars became a rather common practice. In part, it was because architects elsewhere were doing things that really interested the city’s elite.

For example, Garvin dates the very beginning of that sensibility to 1997, the year that the Guggenheim Bilbao was completed. “The incredible splash of Frank Gehry’s museum in Spain,” Garvin said, “just grabbed people’s imagination.”

“We began to have what later became starchitects, and I think the combination of the two really changed the way New Yorkers thought about architecture and the development community,” Garvin said.

The two phenomena, the sudden public interest in ambitious building and the market for architects in smaller projects all over town, fed the growth of each other.

“At some level, [it was] some kind of aftereffect, or byproduct, of 9/11,” Chakrabarti said. “The stuff that was making its way into the papers every day—Richard Rogers and Norman Foster were becoming household names. You’d hear them on the subway.”

Behind the scenes something else had changed as well. Rudolph Giuliani and George Pataki, mayor and governor at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, fearing the inevitable election of former Nader Raider Mark Green as mayor would create conflict about building on the Ground Zero site, created the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, an entity suffered by the Port Authority, owners of the Ground Zero site, and developer Larry Silverstein, who held the 99-year lease on its former buildings, all of whom assumed they would get to decide what was built at Ground Zero as of right. The LMDC, an almost impossible creature of both the city and state’s semi-private development corporations, virtually guaranteed the city itself would have little to say in the redevelopment of the 16-acre site downtown.

In fact, the mayor was to be a Republican billionaire with a self-funded campaign and a group of civic-minded friends with big plans.

“I think [City Planning Commissioner] Amanda [Burden] significantly shifted the conversation into better design,” Chakrabarti said. She encouraged “the use—not so much of brand name architects—but forcing architecture to be innovative, whether it was a really well-known architect or whether it was a small and up-and-coming firm like SHoP. Right? So I think she was really critical at that point.”

There had also developed, as there often does after enough time has passed, a reconsideration of what had happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and with it, not necessarily regret, but a certain wistfulness about what could have been in the intervening decades.

“Forty years ago, Jane Jacobs’s anti-modern architecture movement was launched from this neighborhood, and a good thing it was, too,” wrote Herbert Muschamp in a positive 2003 review of Richard Meier’s glass Perry Street towers, residential buildings with large glass windows in which the stars of the moment, from Calvin Klein to Martha Stewart, were to buy apartments based purely on blueprints, and which had just been built in the West Village, Jacobs’ former home and the cradle of the preservation movement. “But the crusade also led to a contempt for architectural values, a reactionary climate that has benefited no one.”

Chakrabarti cited the Meier towers as a third watershed moment for architecture in the early years of the decade. “I think the development community really took note,” he said. In a pattern that later become almost a cliche, “Someone had hired a very well known architect for a very modern building, and, economically, was fairly successful.”

And though New York had developed plenty of technology in those 40 years, it was not in the building trades. Ouroussoff wrote, in 2009, “A half-century ago American engineering was the envy of the rest of the world. Cities like New York, Los Angeles and New Orleans were considered models for a brilliant new future. Europe, with its suffocating traditions and historical baggage, was dismissed as a decadent, aging culture. It is no small paradox that many people in the world now see us in similar terms.”

It helped, too, that real estate in New York kept booming.

“All of those things kind of converged, to make a kind of perfect storm—in a good sense,” Chakrabarti said. “Right at the outset of the 21st century.”

THE CITY’S BUILDING PROJECTS WERE, AND ARE, AT THIS POINT tabloid-worthy, but interest in architecture hasn’t translated into satisfaction; in fact, it has meant that New Yorkers have become acutely aware of the complications of building in New York.

“I think what people are rightfully skeptical about is the sausage-making of, you know, the physical fabric of our city,” Chakrabarti said.

The World Trade Center site is possibly the best case study, in recent memory, of that sausage-making.

“They see a design for something called the Freedom Tower,” Chakrabarti said. “And, you know, at one point it’s this twisting thing, and it looks quite beautiful—it looks quite elegant. And then suddenly there are security concerns, and it becomes sort of bunkerized. And then there’s glass put on the bunker.”

“What you see is rarely what you get,” he said. The appealing renderings come out “and people have certain expectations that are quite high for what will be delivered, and then what gets delivered falls short of that.”

“Some of them are remarkable and some of them are not,” Garvin said of the attempted architectural feats in the last decade. The Frank Gehry I.A.C building, in far west Chelsea, “I think is something that everybody had responded to very positively.”

But that’s not true of a “great many other things,” he added. “I don’t think Jean Nouvel, for example, had the same kind of effect. I think the reaction is just what you said, ‘ho-hum.’”

Buildings, so many of them, have gone up, but, like Innovate/Integrate curator Sara Hart said, that hasn’t made New York a destination for contemporary architecture. Too many of the practices are outdated, and the people who make the buildings are conditioned for caution. Luxury buildings by big-name architects are “wonderful to look at,” Chakrabarti said, but not truly innovative. “True innovation is really about revolutionizing the process by which buildings are made in a city like New York.”

And that, after all, is what New York’s enduring architectural voice had been from the start.

Echoing, again, the implications of the A.I.A. exhibition, he said, “The reason we are well behind places like Europe, Japan, other places, is that we have very calcified processes, both in terms of development, and construction, in terms of delivering innovation.”

The liquid wall will not, if or when it is realized, debut in New York, and there’s no particular sign that developers or their clients will, or want, to innovate.

Part of what’s happened is that building in New York now is almost entirely developer-driven, and developers are more likely to consider factors like liability, and what they build is usually dependent on what the client wants.

“The majority of developers want to do things the way that they’ve done them for 40 years, because it’s been successful for them,” Chakrabarti said. “The majority of the construction trades and the contractors want to build things the same way because that’s what works for them. So anytime anyone sees anything that in anyway looks different, all the alarm bells go off.”

That has taken control away from the architects themselves, as has the way building has changed in recent years. Construction is more integrated.

“Everybody works on the project at the same time,” Hart told me at the Center for Architecture. “It’s not linear anymore, where [there is] design, structure, mechanical, and then building. Everything is happening all at the same time.”

“Architects have, by and large, allowed that to happen,” Chakrabarti said. “Since the ’60s and ’70s [they] have shrunk from responsibility, liability, from risk taking; and have basically let other players completely, sort of, take over their field.

“Until architects are, sort of, ready to step up to the plate, and take risk and actually challenge the way things are built and developed, they [architects] are going continue to be in these sort of subservient consultant rolls.”

The field will change now that the boom is over. The thing to think about, Chakrabarti says, is what the legacy of it is, what we learned, “and how do those lessons get extrapolated to things other than luxury condos.”

Chakrabarti doesn’t seem entirely pessimistic about post-boom building.

“I have, this year, a hundred students, about 40 of whom are architects who are also studying development because they want to go out and be their own clients,” he said. They want to “get out of this position of ‘architect-as-consultant,’ and into something where they’re actually taking ownership.”

If that were to happen, then, Chakrabarti said, “real innovations can occur, in terms of the development and construction process that will, in turn, get us more innovative architecture.”

Credit to CAPITAL, This is How New York Works

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Architectural Billings Index up for U.S., lags in West

The Architectural Billings Index for the nation was positive in September for the first time in two years, but billings in the western region that includes Colorado weren’t, according to the index released Wednesday.

The ABI, compiled by The American Institute of Architects, is a leading economic indicator of construction activity. It reflects the nine- to 12-month lag between when architecture firms bill clients and when funds for construction are spent.

September’s national ABI score was 50.4, up from 48.2 in August — and up for the fourth month in a row. A score of 50 and above represents an increase in billings.

“This is certainly encouraging news, but we will need to see consistent improvement over the next few months in order to feel comfortable about the state of the design and construction industry,” AIA Chief Economist Kermit Baker said in a statement.

The western area had the lowest regional ABI score for last month, at 44.5, a dip from 45.8 in August. But September’s western score was up significantly from 36.0 in September 2009.

The index breaks the country into four regions: Northeast, Midwest, South and West.

Both the northeastern and midwestern parts of the country had positive ABI scores for September, at 56.7 and 51, respectively. The South had a score of 47.

The ABI is based on a “work-on-the-boards” survey of AIA members by organization researchers. Members are asked each month whether their billings have increased, decreased or stayed the same for the month just ended.

The AIA is more than 150 years old, and based in Washington, D.C.

Hat tip to multiple sources including AIA, Denver Business Journal and Sam Armijos.

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Grand Opening of China World Trade Tower in Beijing

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), along with China World Trade Center Co. Ltd., announced yesterday the grand opening of the China World Trade Tower, an 81-story, mixed use building set in Beijing’s Central Business District.

The tower, which was designed by SOM and contains office, meeting, restaurants, and the China World Summit Wing hotel, now stands as Beijing’s tallest structure and marks the completion of the third and most recent phase of the China World Trade Center development. The opening comes in connection with the 20th Anniversary of the China World Trade Center, which originally opened August 30, 1990.

“SOM is proud to take Beijing’s skyline to a new height with the completion of the China World Trade Tower,” said Brian Lee, design architect and partner, SOM, who attended the grand opening ceremony. “The business of China connects to the rest of the world, so we sought a design that further connected Beijing to the China World Trade Center. Not only does the Tower emphatically mark the Central Business District but the development also provides citizens of Beijing with quality buildings and open space for business, shopping, hospitality, culture, education and enjoyment in a high density urbane environment.”

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Architecture Billings Index Climbs by Two Points in July

Commercial/industrial sector reports growth for third consecutive month

Summary: Although billings at architecture firms declined for the 30th consecutive month in July, the ABI score increased by nearly two points from the previous month, inching closer to 50. In addition, business conditions continue to improve at firms with a commercial/industrial specialization, despite persistent weakness in the general economy. Survey panelists report that the design phase for nearly half of their projects lasts for less than six months, and that the complexity of the project is the most important influence on the length of that design phase.


The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) score for July inched closer to the 50-point threshold again (a score higher than 50 is an indication of growth), climbing nearly two full points from June to 47.9. While there is growing optimism that billings may grow in the near future, business conditions at many architecture firms remain tenuous, with relief still a long way off.

Inquiries into new work have grown for 16 of the last 17 months, but this month’s score of 53.1 is the lowest since the beginning of the year. However, this may represent a leveling out of the glut of RFPs that firms have been receiving in recent months that have not translated into actual billable work.

Business conditions remain weak at architecture firms in all regions of the country. Firms in the Northeast continue to report the highest scores, but they have been weakening every month since very minimal growth was reported in April. The score increased in the South for the fifth month in a row in July, and is approaching 50 for the first time in more than two years.

Firms with a commercial/industrial specialization reported growth for the third month in a row in July, and while it remained minimal, it is still a positive sign. The highest score in nearly two years for that sector was reported at firms with an institutional specialization, amid reports that building projects funded under the stimulus program are beginning to wrap up.

The most recent issue of the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book reports that, for the most part, the commercial and industrial real estate market remains weak in all regions of the country. However, while vacancy rates in many areas are flat or increasing, office/retail leasing actually has been increasing in New York City. Construction activity continues to weaken in the Atlanta, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Cleveland, but public infrastructure construction is on the rise in Chicago, and most Federal Reserve Board districts anticipate slow growth in commercial/industrial real estate in the near future. And, employment data continues to paint a mixed picture. While overall nonfarm payroll employment declined by 131,000 positions in July, the private sector continued to add jobs, with an additional 71,000 positions. Construction employment remains relatively flat, shedding just 11,000 jobs in July.

This month’s special questions followed up on last month’s questions about the timing of project design phases. Survey respondents reported that the largest share of their projects (42%) have a design phase (defined as lasting from the awarding of the design contract to the completion of the construction documents) that lasts less than six months, while an additional 24% of projects have a design phase typically lasting between six and nine months. Small firms are much more likely to have shorter design phases than large firms, with 59% of projects at firms with less than $250,000 in annual billings having design phases of less than six months, compared to just 23% of projects at firms with annual billings of $5 million or more. Projects at firms with an institutional specialization also tend to have a slightly longer design phase, with nearly half (47%) of projects at those firms having a design phase lasting between six and 12 months.

Our panelists indicated that the complexity of a project is the most important influence on the length of the design phase, followed by project size (construction value), type of client, and scope of design services offered. The project delivery method (e.g., design-build, design-bid-build, integrated project delivery) was not considered to be a very important factor.

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Article via AIA.org

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NYC Council Approves New Domino Project

The landmarked Domino Refinery complex will be preserved and adapted for residential, commercial, and cultural uses, including 30- and 34-story apartment buildings. Rafael Viñoly Architects developed the overall master plan as well as the conceptual design for all new buildings on the site; Beyer Blinder Belle Architects & Planners developed architectural concepts for the refinery; and Quennell Rothschild and Partners developed the landscape design. The master plan will transform the industrial complex into a modular, mixed-use, and multi-income residential development that emphasizes open space and public access to the river while preserving the refinery and its famed 40-foot-tall Domino Sugar sign. The project will create approximately 2,200 residential units, 660 of which will be affordable. The more than 223,500 square feet of retail will include a grocery store that will adhere to FRESH zoning standards in addition to approximately 143,000 square feet of community facility space. A nearly one-acre open lawn will anchor a new public waterfront esplanade.

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Choi+Shine wins BSA Unbuilt Architecture Award for Land of Giants

Brookline, MA-based Jin Choi & Thomas Shine of Choi+Shine recently received the 2010 Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Architecture Award for their “Land of Giants” project. The project was originally submitted for an Icelandic pylon competition, where it received an honorable mention.   The competition was to find a new typology for Iceland’s high voltage power lines and pylons.

This design transforms mundane electrical pylons into statues on the Icelandic landscape by making only small alterations to existing pylon design.

Making only minor alterations to well established steel-framed tower design, we have created a series of towers that are powerful, solemn and variable. These iconic pylon-figures will become monuments in the landscape. Seeing the pylon-figures will become an unforgettable experience, elevating the towers to something more than merely a functional design of necessity.

The pylon-figures can be configured to respond to their environment with appropriate gestures. As the carried electrical lines ascend a hill, the pylon-figures change posture, imitating a climbing person. Over long spans, the pylon-figure stretches to gain increased height, crouches for increased strength or strains under the weight of the wires.

To coontinue reading in Bustler click here.

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